Showing posts with label Xterra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Xterra. Show all posts

Friday, April 30, 2010

Racing through spring

Today's planned run: Central Park

I'm feeling rested after taking a break yesterday. I'm hoping that this will translate into some good running today and over the weekend. I'm planning to run again with my friend in Central Park at lunchtime. It should be 70 degrees by noon with lots of sun. Oh, for the want of a shower in my office!

It's amazing that tomorrow is already May 1st. This year is going by quickly and I attribute much of that to spending a good part of January recovering from pneumonia. It's like I lost a month. But spring is here and the weather has been nice for outside activities. I'm thinking about my racing plans between now and summer. Right now, I've got three events in my sights:

The Brooke Jackman Run for Literacy 5K - May 16
A local race in mid-May. It's a run/walk so my family can also participate.

The XTERRA Trail Race Series 8K run at Stillwell Woods - June 6
This is the second Stillwell XTERRA race this year. I did the first in March and it was tough. Add 1.5 miles  to that course and you have the June 6 race.

New Hyde Park 8K - June 13
I ran this race last year and learned my lesson about starting too fast. I bonked 2/3 of the way through the course but still ended up with a sub-9:00 pace (just barely).

This would mean I'd be running three races in one month's time. It seems like a lot but I do those distances as training runs every weekend. The XTERRA is the biggest challenge and until recently I thought I wouldn't be up for it. I will do what's necessary to be ready to run it by the 6th. After all, racing is a great way to train for other races.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Racing decisions for May and June

Today's workout: Rain delay

I wasn't surprised to see pouring rain when I woke up this morning. All the same I was very disappointed. I'd held out hope that the weather reports would be wrong and that the storm would miss Long Island. No such luck. My issue with running in the rain comes from wearing glasses. A light rain is really no problem, it's sort of like driving through mist. But when the rain starts to come down hard it's windshield wiper time. Since my glasses don't have wipers, running through rain can be very disorienting. I'm surprised there isn't some rain protection invention for runners who wear glasses. I guess corrective goggles or using contact lenses would be my only choices. Neither option is too appealing.

The weather reports are indicating intermittent rain this afternoon so I may luck out for running later. I had hoped to run with a friend earlier this morning but it was just too wet at 6:00 AM. He and I are planning to try again next Sunday since I've decided not to do the RXR 10K race next weekend that would have conflicted with that. I may run one of the local 5K's taking place later in May or just skip this month for racing and focus on racing in June. There's the XTERRA Trail Series 8K at Stillwell on June 6 and the New Hyde Park 8K on the 13th. The Stillwell #2 race would be my toughest racing challenge to date. Stillwell #1, held this past March in the ice and snow, was very difficult even with the course cut down to 3.5 miles due to trail conditions. I ran New Hyde Park last year and struggled with pace, clocking in just under nine minutes per mile. I'll need to decide which to run in June. Maybe I'll run both.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Which race to race?

Today's workout: Rest day

My city run last Friday was a great lead-in for a satisfying weekend of running. It's rare that I string three days of excellent running in a row like that so I appreciated it all the more. All that running has made me think about my summer racing schedule and the races and distances that I should target. We're more than halfway through April and I've still not decided how, or even if, I'll compete in May. I've considered the RXR LI Marathon's 10K, stepping up from the 5K that I ran last year. The 5K course was flat but uninspiring, more like running in an industrial park than on a race course. Except for that, there aren't many local races to choose from in distances greater than 5K. I love running 5K's but I'd like a little more variety and distance right now.

June has the opposite challenge. There are two races I'd like to do - the New Hyde Park 8K and the XTERRA trail series second Stillwell race. As I reported back in March, the first Stillwell XTERRA was pared down to about 3.5 miles due to icy conditions on the trails. Even at that length it was a great struggle to manage that course. The June race won't have the ice factor so the run will be an 8K over difficult terrain. Even with my daily running, hill training, cross training and passion for the trails I'm concerned that I could run competitively that day. I would train even harder than I did for the first one and I think I'm in better shape than I was in early March when I was still dealing with residual issues from pneumonia. The New Hyde Park 8K is a less interesting course than Stillwell but I've felt like I had a score to settle because the original race result posted me at 9:00 per mile and I really wanted to break 9 minutes. I checked the results again and they now have me listed under 9:00 so that argument is moot. I'm going to take a look at the RXR 10K course map to see if that route is more interesting than the 5K. I still have a little time to decide on June's challenge.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The path of enlightenment is cold, wet and muddy

I learned a few things on Sunday about my level of conditioning. They weren't happy lessons but they put my fitness into perspective. The XTERRA crowd was different than the typical mix I've observed at other races. This was a purpose-driven bunch, young, lean and intense. I would have been very intimidated had I participated in this event a year ago. After six races last year I understood what to expect and that my best strategy was to start at a moderate pace and just run my race. Yesterday was both an affirmation that I can run with this crowd (I really was worried about finishing far at the back of the pack) and a reality check that, perhaps, I'm not completely recovered from my pneumonia.

I was prepared to go out for 4.75 miles of tough trails and when they said they'd cut the length to 3.7 I said "easy." I would not have allowed myself a DNF but I also wouldn't have maintained 9:20 on those trails if I'd needed to cover another mile during the race. I truly understood the sensation of lactic acid buildup in my legs as we went from hill scrambles to abrupt descents to rising switchbacks. There were times when I told myself I just couldn't make another hill but I managed to talk my way into pressing on. Sometimes I used the crowd of runners behind me as motivation and other times I told myself  "One way or another you're getting out of the woods so you might as well do it running."

I did make good decisions prior and during the race. I wore warm outer clothes as close to the race start as possible and handed them off to my wife when we assembled for the start. I wore running gloves and noticed many didn't. The gloves helped regulate my body temperature and gave me security that I had protection in the event of a fall. I refused to let the other runners intimidate me as they drafted closely behind on narrow trails and I left room on the left for those who wished to pass. I took the time to enjoy what was happening around me and took note of the course for future training. Next time I run at Stillwell I'll take on the black trail and not shy away from the tough stuff. There will be another Stillwell race in June, this one full length, so I'll need to be better prepared if I choose to participate.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

XTERRA report: mud, sweat and tears

Photo finish (for a mid-pack position)

The combination of mud, ice, snow, rocks, scree, hills, drops and gnarly roots steadily transformed my state of mind from happy to miserable over the course of today's 3.7 mile race. In the end it came down to a full tilt sprint to the finish line where I was beat out by half a step (for about 70th place), much to my chagrin.

The XTERRA event at Stillwell had its challenges both on the course and in the planning. None of this was the organizer's fault. First, due to significant budget cuts affecting Long Island's state parks, we were locked out of the public bathrooms. This left us with a single Porta-Potty for the 200+ participants, race staff and spectators. Although that caused delays they weren't measurable and we started only eight minutes later than planned. The other big challenge was the amount of slick ice that remained on the course. A decision was made yesterday to cut about a mile of trails from the route for safety purposes. That said, there were still a lot of treacherous conditions and I saw at least one person limping past the finish line in obvious pain from a tumble on the course.

After a detailed description of the route that helped the runners understand the need to stay on course, they blew the air horn and the 130 or so participants made their way swiftly across the field and into the woods. I was having a blast at that point. My Helly Hansen Trail Lizards were made for conditions like this but when I hit the first of many icy, muddy, twisty trails I thought about how easily a person could trip and fall. With dozens of tightly packed runners jockeying along the singletrack, one misstep could have caused a very large accident. After a while I got used to the course and realized that the black trail is like a roller coaster that goes up or drops every 30 seconds or so. I also realized that I've consciously avoided much of this part of the trail during recreational runs because it's so tough.

With half mile to go in the race, the guy in front of me yelled back and said "we're almost there!" I was very pleased to know that and also glad that they cut the length of the course because I was really feeling exhausted at that point. When we hit the main open trail I could see the finish line but the effect of running on a thick layer of icy snow was jarring and we all stepped gingerly as we leaned in for the final 440. Once we passed the trail head and hit the field I heard a few runners behind me. When we got closer to the finish I could hear the footsteps of another runner determined to beat me over the line. We finished our sprint with a photo finish but I think I lost by a nose. I was so glad it was over and my wife and kids told me that many of those who crossed the line ahead of me had said it was a really rough, slippery course and it was the toughest race they'd ever run. I'll agree with that.

Official results have not been posted yet but I did maintain a 9:20 pace according to my Garmin. Considering that Stillwell usually costs me 30-45 seconds a mile against my road running pace I was happy with that result. Well, another race run and a tough one at that. The Marcie Mazzola  5K in April is my next competition and compared to today it seems a piece of cake. But I don't assume anything in a race so training for that race will begin soon enough.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

16 hours to a cold, wet, muddy mess

Snow and ice covers the main open trail
It's less than a day until my first race of 2010, the XTERRA trail run at Stillwell Woods. This will be the seventh time I've raced competitively since returning to running in 2008. I'm looking at tomorrow's event from a few different perspectives. First, it's a race and that in itself creates excitement. Second, the action of participating in a rigorous 5 mile trail race less than two months after a week's stay in the hospital validates my recovery from severe pneumonia. Third, this race promises to be the single most challenging running experience I've ever faced due to the course and the conditions we'll be facing.

This morning my son and I stopped by the race site to see how the trails were looking. They hadn't marked the course but the website says we'll be running the "black trail." I'm not too familiar with Stillwell's trail markings (which explains why I always get lost when I run in the interior of the preserve) but I'll try to pay closer attention tomorrow. Once we arrived at Stillwell I realized that there's still quite a lot of snow on the ground. As we walked to the trail head we saw that the first 300 yards of the course are covered by a few inches of well-trod icy snow. We followed the main open trail until we came to path that broke to the right and led into the woods to the south. The path was less snow covered due to the trees but there was still enough to warrant careful footing, especially when the trails twisted and dropped.

Interior trail
Muddy singletrack

We continued our hike in the woods and as our trail rose we encountered lots of mud from the melted snow. I was imagining 100+ runners packed together, racing on a narrow trail and kicking up lots of muddy water. My friend KWL suggested that I wear goggles to protect my eyes from the spray but I'm going to have to tough it out with just a pair of glasses. Although we didn't travel too far on our hike I managed to get a little lost, but my 10 year old son navigated us successfully back to the main trail. I wish I could bring him tomorrow. The weather at 10 AM was still chilly and it's made me rethink my plan to wear only one or two light layers. I'll bring some extra clothes to the race which I can leave behind with my "crew" if I decide I don't need them. It's now exactly 16 hours to the start. I hope I can sleep tonight!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tapering to the core

I was surprised to see snow falling this morning as I made my way to the train station. The news didn't mention it but when I reached the train I noticed a layer of white stuff on the cars that had sat overnight in the parking lot. I don't expect much accumulation but you never know. Tomorrow I'll take a drive over to Stillwell Woods to check out conditions for Sunday's race. I'm hoping that they will have the XTERRA course marked so I can get a better sense of the route. I'm still concerned that I could get lost!

Since I've finished the running portion of my taper I'd planned to rest this morning. I decided instead to do the 15 minute core workout, as I did on Monday, and I'm pleased that the work on some of the exercises is beginning to feel easier. I'm assuming I'm making some progress and soon I'll adopt the "make it harder" suggestions that accompany the Lolo core exercise descriptions and illustrations in the magazine. I always feel energized and stronger after doing this simple workout. I'm not sure if I'll do anything fitness related on Saturday or if I'll be self indulgent and rest. I really wish the race was tomorrow but Sunday will come soon enough.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A 9:00 AM start for the XTERRA hits my sweet spot

I went out for my run a little later than normal today because I had some early morning errands that I needed to get done. The effect of deviating from my normal routine can go two different ways. I've run better than average when starting later, rather than first thing in the morning. Most of the races I've run have started hours after the time that I'd normally do a weekend run. I've beaten my normal training pace during every one of those those events.  I've also performed poorly when running later in the day: after work or during my lunch hour. My best performances seem to happen during runs between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. I wish Garmin Connect had more options for analyzing historical metrics so I could easily compare my average pace across various start times. There are a few ways to do this but both are cumbersome. I'll leave that to another time.

I went out at 9:30 this morning with Friday's snow still fresh on the sides of the street. I wore my light duty Adidas trail shoes to help maintain traction. These shoes are very comfortable and they double as my weekend casual shoes but they don't provide the energy return that I get from the Brooks Adrenalines, especially my new GTS 10's. Although I'd been out earlier in the morning I'd misjudged the cold and my ears were very uncomfortable for the first third of my 3.7 mile run. The first half of the run was more of a serene plod than a hard training run. I was taking in the scene of recently fallen snow blanketing the neighborhood and was enjoying the experience fully until it occurred to me that I will be racing next weekend and I needed to train. I picked up my pace for the second half, averaging between 8:50 and 9:00 per mile. Overall I averaged around 9:30 for the full run.

Tomorrow I'll go for a little more distance and then move into taper mode prior to the March 7th event. I'm wondering what Stillwell Woods will look like after this week's snow. With another possible storm coming on Wednesday it could get tricky on race day. It doesn't really matter though. As long as they still hold the race I'll be there. It will be a new experience racing in the snow and the conditions will be the same for all the other runners. I'm fascinated to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

11 days to go before the XTERRA Trail Run

Helly Hansen Trail Lizard
I am eleven days away from my next race and I'm looking forward to the event. This upcoming race is different from any I've raced before, including my previous trail race, the Dirty Sock 10K. The March 7th XTERRA race at Stillwell Woods presents conditions that will challenge runners at every step. Unlike a road race where the streets are wide enough for bunches of runners, Stillwell has a lot of singletrack paths that barely accommodate one person. I don't know exactly how the course will be routed but there are some significant drops and climbs in those woods. On the bright side, if I am able to keep up with the other runners I may have my first experience running at Stillwell without getting lost.

I haven't been able to train on trails since my adventure at Muttontown Preserve a few weeks ago. Since then there's been too much snow and more coming this weekend if predictions for a Nor'easter are accurate. I've been relegated to the treadmill except on days off so I'm under-trained for hills. I ran 2.4 miles this morning at 9:17/mile. The guest room was warm and I wore my Atayne shirt that I love but it's slightly heavier than my other short sleeved running shirts. Together they contributed to a sweaty but pleasant run. I had the TV on so I could catch some highlights from last night's Olympic games while I ran. I'm hoping that I can get outside this weekend for some hill training or do some elliptical sessions at a high resistance level. Otherwise I'll just need to manage my way through the race with my present state of conditioning. I'm also wondering what the Stillwell course will be like if there's a ton of snow on the ground. I'll be wearing my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards, my most capable trail runners. I'm hoping they'll be enough shoe for the day's conditions.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nice guys finish last? Not this one.

After a great long weekend that included three good runs I'm feeling very positive about my progress. It was less than a month ago that I took a walk around the neighborhood with my wife and needed to stop before completing a mile. By most measures I have reached a state of conditioning that allows me to push as hard as I wish without concern that it will trigger a relapse. I left the office on Friday with what I thought would be a weekend-ruining cold but my immune system knocked it out like a champ. I guess after taking on pneumonia, a head cold isn't much of a challenge. I attribute my quick recovery to the running I did this weekend. I honestly believe you can sweat your way out of a cold if the sweat is accompanied by physical exertion.

While it may be true that I'm rapidly moving toward my pre-January fitness level I also recognize that I'm short of the distance benchmarks I used to meet on my weekend runs. The longest continuous run I've managed this year has been 3.4 miles, far short of my usual 5 to 8 mile weekend distances. I wouldn't be concerned except that I'll need to cover almost five miles on some rough and technical terrain in just a few weeks when I race at Stillwell Woods. It occurs to me that the profile of runners for this race skews younger and (probably) more competitive than those in my past races. It's possible that I could finish last! Although some view me as competitive it's really me competing against myself. Will it bother me to be the last runner past the finish line? Well, I can tell you I wouldn't love it but I'd still feel okay about finishing a tough race like that two months after a week in the hospital. Either way I'd win. But if it comes down to a tight finish there's no way I'll be the last one over the line.

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